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  4. ESRC Seminar Series - Green Innovation: Making it Work

ESRC Seminar Series - Green Innovation: Making it Work


Led by: Professor David J. Smith (Nottingham Business School), Dr Richard Blundel (The Open University Business School), Professor Robert Ackrill (Nottingham Business School).

This series of six seminars brought together academics and practitioners interested in pro-environmental innovation with a focus on the factors that facilitate and constrain its practical application. The primary aim was to promote a deeper understanding of the institutional and infrastructural changes required in both developed and developing country contexts. We have adopted the deliberately broad and populist term "green innovation" (Schiederig et al., 2012), to signal its role as a forum for the interchange of ideas and research findings between academics from different disciplines and institutions, and practitioners working in fields such as energy and transport, which have significant environmental impact.


Special issue: ‘Green innovation’ – connecting governance, practices and outcomes 

The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation 

SAGE Journals - ISSN: 14657503; eISSN: 20436882 (published quarterly) 

Guest Editors: Richard Blundel, The Open University, UK; David Smith, Nottingham Trent University, UK; Rob Ackrill, Nottingham Trent University, UK; Anja Schaefer, The Open University, UK

One of the main themes to emerge from contributors to the series has been the importance of making connections between institutional governance (including rules and regulations), the practices of actors within a particular domain (including incumbents and new entrants), and the outcomes achieved in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability (Foxon and Pearson, 2008; Geels et al., 2016; Kuzemko et al., 2016). Building on these contributions, we are keen to showcase rigorous interdisciplinary research that draws on relevant explanatory frameworks and concepts (e.g. institutional theory, socio-technical transitions, dynamic capabilities, inclusive innovation), to examine these connections in greater detail.

The Special Issue is due to be published in February 2018.

Previous seminars

Seminar one: Setting the scene, 22 April 2015 (NTU, Nottingham)

The aim of the first seminar was to provide an overview of the subject matter covered by green innovation and to introduce key themes prior to more detailed consideration in later seminars:

  • Scoping the role of green innovation in the wider sustainability agenda
  • Researching green innovation practice: multi-disciplinary perspectives
  • Identifying the key barriers, drivers and enablers for implementing green innovation
  • Setting an agenda for green innovation practice.

Guest speakers included: Will McDowall (University College London), Fred Steward (Policy Studies Institute), Gavin Killip (University of Oxford), Franz Huber (University of Seeburg, Austria), Michael Ehret (NTU) and John Nicholson (University of Hull)

Seminar two: Green business models and strategies, 6 July 2015 (The Open University, Milton Keynes)

The aim of the second seminar was to examine a variety of business models and strategies that have emerged in recent years with the explicit aim of fostering pro-environmental innovation, both within and across different industry sectors.

Guest speakers included: Dr Naomi Braithwaite and Dr Luke Harmer (Nottingham Trent University); and Matthew Cook (The Open University). The event also featured four short ‘provocations’, which were presented by Sarah Williams (The Open University and the Sustainable Business Company), James Upstill-Goddard (Loughborough University), Chris Martin (The University of Manchester) and Aqueel Wahga (The Open University).

Seminar three: Green energy innovations (energy generation, distribution and consumption), 11 March 2016 (NTU, Nottingham)

The third seminar explored the theme of green innovations associated with the energy sector, including various aspects of both energy supply and energy demand. A range of innovative low carbon energy sources was considered, including farm-based systems, co-generation and energy extraction from flooded coal mines.  The seminar also explored how new urban housing developments and smart metering applications could be designed to reduce domestic energy demand.

Guest speakers included: Nick Ebbs (Chief Executive of Blueprint Regeneration); Amin Al-Habaibeh (School of Architecture, Design & Built Environment, NTU); Les Levidow (The Open University); Julie Lewis, Julie Rosborough, John Harvey and Tony Woodall (Nottingham Business School); Md. Mofakkarul Islam (School of Animal, Rural & Environmental Sciences, NTU).

Seminar four: Policy challenges and research contributions, 18 May 2016 (UK Research Office, Brussels)

This seminar explored the theme of policy, with expert speakers representing the policymaking, academic and consultancy communities. The papers provided a broad overview of current challenges in UK and EU policymaking, complemented by detailed analyses of green innovation in particular fields, and their associated socio-technical, political and regulatory challenges. The role of research in this policy arena was examined, and how it might contribute more effectively in helping to overcome these challenges.

Guest speakers included: Kyriakos Maniatis, European Commission, DG-Energy; Andrea Westall, The Open University; Matthew Lockwood, School of Geography, University of Exeter; and Alyssa Gilbert, Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College.

Seminar five: Innovations for sustainable mobility, Friday 25 November 2016 (NTU, Nottingham)

This seminar explored the theme of mobility in the widest sense, addressing innovations in transport policies and systems as much as those associated with specific forms of transport. Hence, there was coverage, not only of technology-based innovations, such as low emission vehicles, but also social innovations designed to change behaviour and facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. The seminar involved presentations from practitioners working in the transport field as well as academics and, as with previous seminars in the series, was designed to appeal to both audiences.

Guest speakers included: Robert Evans, CENEX; Mark Daly, Nottingham City Council; Ouahcene Ourahmoune, Alstom UK & Ireland; Paul Nieuwenhuis, Centre for Automotive Industry Research, Cardiff University; and Noam Bergman, SPRU, University of Sussex.

Seminar six: Deconstructing green innovation - implications for policy and practice, Friday 20 January 2017 (The Open University, Milton Keynes)

Through a combination of invited presentations, plenary and small group discussions, participants in the final seminar in the series had an opportunity to review topics addressed at previous events, identify common themes and discuss the implications for policy-makers and practitioners. Programme highlights included:

  • Disruptive low carbon innovations: Charlie Wilson, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia
  • Smart Cities - developing public-private-people partnerships: Lorraine Hudson, Hudson Sustainability Consulting and The Open University
  • An overview of the series - key themes and insights: Andrea Westall, The Open University


  • Foxon, T and Pearson, P (2008) ‘Overcoming barriers to innovation and diffusion of cleaner technologies: some features of a sustainable innovation policy regime.’ Journal of Cleaner Production, 16(1): S148-61.
  • Geels, F.W., Kern, F., Fuchs, G., Hinderer, N., Kungl, G., Mylan, J., Neukirch, M. and Wassermann, S. (2016) ‘The enactment of socio-technical transition pathways: a reformulated typology and a comparative multi-level analysis of the German and UK low-carbon electricity transitions (1990–2014).’ Research Policy, 45(4): 896-913.
  • Kuzemko, C., Lockwood, M., Mitchell, C. and Hoggett, R. (2016) ‘Governing for sustainable energy system change: politics, contexts and contingency.’ Energy Research & Social Science, 12: 96-105.
  • Schiederig, T., Tietze, F. and Herstatt, C. (2012) ‘Green innovation in technology and innovation management – an exploratory literature review.’ R&D Management, 42(2): 180–192.

Research team

  • Professor Robert Ackrill (Nottingham Business School)
  • Dr Richard Blundel (The Open University Business School)
  • Professor David J. Smith (Nottingham Business School)
Funding Body: 
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)